Lebanon: How We Got Here

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Mr. Gelber is a professor of history at the University of Haifa. He is currently at UNC Chapel Hill.

The beginning of Israel’s involvement in Lebanon dates back to the 1930s, before Jewish statehood. The Arab rebels in Palestine looked for guidance to their leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin al-Hussayni, who found refuge in a Lebanese village and from this secure shelter directed the rebellion in Palestine and provided the Palestinian gangs with munitions, provisions and funds while the French authorities in Beirut turned a blind eye to his actions. Jewish officials bribed Lebanese politicians and police officers to hinder his activities. They also dispatched Arab and Druze agents to Lebanon to assassinate the Mufti, but these attempts failed. Politically, the Jewish Agency cherished hopes in forming a “block of minorities” to balance the Muslim majority in the region. Lebanon’s Christians of all denominations were especially significant for implementing this ambitious goal. Hence, the Jews cultivated relations with various Christian factions, though not yet with the Phalanges of Pierre Jumayil who at that time adopted fascist orientation.

The rapprochement between the Jews of Palestine and the Christian Arabs of Lebanon culminated in the summer of 1947. Ben-Gurion and the old (93) Maronite Patriarch Anton Arida exchanged letters promising mutual cooperation and friendship. Having in mind a future Christian state in Lebanon, Bishop Mubarak of Beirut declared before UNSCOP the Maronites’ support for partition and the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

Lebanon belonged to the political coalition of Arab states that invaded Israel in May 1948, but owing to the Christians’ influence and reluctance to take part in the adventure it did not join the military enterprise. The Lebanese army did not cross the border, and gave only token artillery and logistic assistance to the Arab League’s troops that penetrated from South Lebanon into Galilee.

In a manner reminiscent of years to come, in 1948 Lebanon allowed various foreign military forces to use its territory as a base for launching operations against Israel losing thereby its own authority in the southern part of the country. At the end of the war, the IDF, the Syrian army, remnants of the League’s army, North African volunteers and Palestinian gangs, as well as Lebanese regular units deployed in South Lebanon facing each other.

Earlier in the war, first mutual contacts were made between Israel and the Phalanges — directly and through Jewish and Maronites in the United States. Israeli officials cherished hopes of a Maronite putsch that would cause Lebanon to quit the war. The hopes proved abortive because the Christians of Lebanon were too weak, divided, and apprehensive of the Muslims and Syria. Nonetheless, contacts with the Phalanges persisted after the war and intensified in the 1960s. Israel also had traditional connections with the Shi’ite local leader of Jabal Amal in South Lebanon, Ahmad al-As’ad, a minister of the government in Beirut, and his descendants and successors. Israeli Druze endeavored to cultivate similar bond with the Lebanese Druze leader Kemal Junbalat, but the amalgamation of Lebanese Maronites, Shi'ites and Druze — traditional adversaries — into a block of minorities allied with Israel proved an impossible task.

After the armistice agreement in 1949, Israel was only indirectly and clandestinely involved in Lebanon’s politics. Aware of the risks and determined to maintain a low profile, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion vetoed suggestions to interfere in Lebanese affairs in times of crisis such as the civil war in 1958. The attitude to Lebanon of Ben-Gurion’s successor, Levy Eshkol, was even more prudent and suspicious. The arena of Lebanese politics was dominated by the Muslim-Christian tension, by the presence of Palestinian refugees who were not admitted into Lebanese society (they did not have citizenship, could not work and lived in UNRWA-supported camps along the Mediterranean coast and in the Bq’a), and by Syria’s indirect interference.

Until the Six Day war in 1967, The Israeli-Lebanese border was relatively quiet, though not as peaceful as one would like to believe. In the wake of that war, however, the Palestinians re-emerged on the scene of the Arab-Israeli conflict as an independent factor. The PLO, established in 1964, now came to the fore and already in the beginning of 1965 started a terror campaign against Israel. Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon were recruiting ground, training depot and logistic and operational bases of the PLO’s para-military organizations and their world-wide terrorist actions against international aviation and Israeli targets abroad.

After 1967, Israel repressed resistance in the West Bank and Gaza, and blocked the Jordan valley effectively against infiltration from Jordan to the West Bank. In September 1970, King Hussayn forcefully eliminated the PLO from the Hashemite Kingdom. The fugitives flocked to Lebanon, and with the Lebanese government turning a blind eye to the creation of “a Palestinian state within a state” on Lebanese land, in the early 1970s the country became the Palestinians’ principal stronghold and they enjoyed practical autonomy and immunity.

From their relatively secure shelters among the Palestinian civilian population in the refugee camps of Lebanon and the crowded neighborhoods of west Beirut, The Palestinians para-military organizations waged throughout the 1970s guerrilla and terror warfare against Israel — across the mountainous land border, along the Israeli coast and against Israelis all over the world — such as the Israeli expedition to the Olympic Games in München in the summer of 1972. The authority of Lebanon’s government in its own country became nominal and chaos prevailed in most regions, particularly in the south. Israeli reprisals — air bombings and commando raids — increasingly harmed both Palestinians and Lebanese.

The irritation of the Lebanese, particularly the Christians and the Shi’ites in the southern part of the country, grew as the price of this warfare became heavier. The Christians feared for what remained of their hegemony and, furthermore, for the very independence of Lebanon. The Shi’ites bore the main burden of the skirmishes along the border. In 1975/6, the irritation exploded and a civil war broke out between the Christians and the Palestinians and continued intermittently for 14 years, until the Ta’if agreement in 1989.

As bordering states, influenced by developments in Lebanon and interested in its fate, both Israel and Syria played their parts behind the curtains of this civil war and sometimes in front of them. At the beginning, the Christian leadership turned to Syria for help and invited the Syrian army into the country. Syrian intervention tipped the scales in favor of the Christians, but then Syria switched sides, backed the Palestinians and deployed its army permanently in west Beirut, along the Beirut–Damascus road, and in the southern approaches to the Bq’a. This array should have defended the Palestinians in Beirut and block an IDF attempt to outflank the Golan Heights and attack the main positions of the Syrian army around Damascus through Lebanon.

At the same time, under the guidance and with the approval of PM Itzhak Rabin, Israel strengthened its ties with the main Christian militia — the Phalanges. The IDF trained, supplied and assisted the Phalanges and the military bond developed into a political one as well. The Phalanges’ leaders visited Israel and Israeli leaders, including Rabin, met with the Christian leaders either on a vessel off the Lebanese coast or in the harbor of Junia, the Christian “capital.”

In the 1980s, this alliance proved to be a grave mistake. Lebanon's demographic and cultural composition has formed a highly sensitive equilibrium between the various ethnic and religious groups of the population. A foreign power invading the country in alliance with any particular group is likely to provoke the resistance of all others out of fear for their place in the new order. This happened to the French in 1919-1920, and to the Israelis in the 1980s. The Syrians, by contrast, had no favorite ethnic or religious group and survived in Lebanon much longer. However, when they became identified with the Shi'ite Hizbullah they soon provoked the other groups that with international backing have recently succeeded in ousting them, at least temporarily. The Israeli leaders of the 1970s and 1980s were unaware of this principle. They aligned themselves openly and carelessly with the Maronite Phalangists that nonetheless were incapable of delivering any goods. When this alliance became evident to the Lebanese, it incited first the Druze and then the Shi'ites against Israel.

In the late 1970s, Israel was dragged deeper and deeper into the Lebanese marsh. On 11 March 1978, Palestinian terrorists landed on Israel’s coast, hijacked a bus and massacred its commuters. Consequently, Israel launched a large-scale operation in South Lebanon, operation Litani, and occupied a strip along the border 10 kilometers wide. After withdrawing, the IDF created in the evacuated area a buffer zone that was held by a Christian and Shi’ite local militia commanded by a Lebanese regular officer — Major Hadad — and financed and equipped by Israel.

The civil war in Lebanon provided the background for several massacres, some of the biggest that ever took place in the modern Middle East, matched only by Hafiz Assad’s outrageous bombardment of the Muslim Brethren in Hama in 1982. The bloodiest and most famous of these atrocities were the massacres of the Palestinians in the Beirut quarter of Tel Za’atar in 1976 and the Christians in the small town of Damur by the Palestinians in 1978, each inflicting several thousands of non-combatant casualties. Mass killings on smaller scale were performed by the belligerents elsewhere, opening or continuing chains of revenge according to Middle Eastern tradition.

Skirmishing, shelling, terrorist acts and retaliation raids along the Israel-Lebanon border persisted after operation Litani. In May 1981, the continuing involvement of Syria and Israel in Lebanon led to clashes between Israeli and Syrian aircraft and to the deployment of Syrian AA missiles on Lebanon’s territory that might protect not only the Syrian troops in Lebanon but also the PLO bases from Israeli air attacks.

In July 1981, the IDF launched a major air operation against the Palestinian organizations that responded with massive shelling of Kiryat Shmona and other settlements in Galilee. An American-mediated cease-fire ended this skirmish after ten days. Subsequently, the Palestinians suspended actions against Israel from Lebanon and embarked on consolidating their power inside the country, either in preparation for resuming fighting when they had proper responses to Israeli reprisals (i.e. by shelling targets deeper inside Israel) or with aim of assuming power in Lebanon or both. Watching the build-up of Palestinian power on its northern border, Israel was determined to eliminate the threat and waited for an opportunity to destroy the developing Palestinian infrastructure.

An attempt on the life of Shlomo Argov — Israel’s ambassador to London — provided Israel’s government with the excuse it was looking for. On 5th June 1982 the IDF invaded Lebanon and moved northwards to the Beirut-Damascus road. The three goals of this invasion were: (1) destroying the Palestinian organizations’ bases and war materials and eliminating their threat to the Galilee's settlements; (2) joining hands with Israel’s allies, the Phalanges, and enthroning them in Beirut as a preparatory step for signing a peace between Israel and Christian Lebanon; (3) removing the Syrian army from Lebanon.

The military success of the June 1982 campaign was partial, much below expectations. Palestinian and Syrian resistance was stiffer than forecast and the scale of IDF casualties was bigger than anticipated. The advancing troops failed to reach the Beirut-Damascus road in time (namely, before the imposition of a cease-fire). Many Palestinian combatants managed to withdraw to Beirut and the IDF had to besiege the city for three months before they left by agreement to Tunisia. The Syrian army remained in the Bq’a and in Beirut, though communications between the two regions were disrupted after the cease fire when the IDF took over a small sector of the Beirut-Damascus road.

The indecisive outcomes and the vagueness of the war goals gradually changed the Israeli public’s attitude to the war. Initially, the government enjoyed the support of Labor, the main opposition party. However, the protracted siege of Beirut, the early resistance actions by Palestinians and, later, Shi’ites sponsored by Iran and directed by Iranian revolutionary guardsmen that were dispatched to the Bq’a, and the growing number of casualties — all fostered in Israel opposition to the war and to the continuation of the IDF presence deep in Lebanon. Consequently, the Labor Party jumped on the anti-war cart.

The growing disenchantment with the war notwithstanding, politically Israel succeeded in forcing the Lebanese Parliament to elect its ally — the Phalanges’ leader Bashir Jumayil — as Lebanon’s next president. His election was supposed to be a first step on the road to a peace agreement between Israel and Lebanon. At the beginning of September 1982, with Bashir as elected-president, another peace treaty with an Arab state looming and Arafat on his way to Tunis — Israel appeared victorious and successful.

This apparently promising picture changed abruptly on 14 September 1982. A car bomb exploded beneath the Phalanges headquarters in Beirut killing Bashir and many of his close associates. The Phalanges sustained this heavy blow precisely when they were so close to attaining their long cherished target of a Christian-dominated Lebanon. The IDF, which hitherto was satisfied with holding the upper ground of the mainly Christian East Beirut, and besieged the lower and crowded western quarters inhabited by Palestinians and Shi’ites, promptly moved into West Beirut. In the framework of this move, the local IDF commander in Beirut, General Amos Yaron, assigned the Phalanges the task of clearing the Palestinian neighborhoods (or refugee camps) of Sabra, Shatila and Burj al-Barajna.

The IDF abstained from dispatching any Israeli troops into the densely populated camps, but Israeli outposts observed the Phalanges' action from the outside. A few hours after the Phalanges entered the camps on 16 September, suspicions emerged that they were executing people indiscriminately. Indeed, the hard core of the Phalanges, Elie Hubeika’s special security troops, slaughtered Palestinians in revenge for previous massacres and the recent assassination of their leader Bashir. This was a typical Lebanese way of settling old accounts that had many precedents in the near and far past. By no means was it more cruel or bloody than Damur, Tel al-Za’atar, and several events that accompanied the civil war of 1958 in Lebanon or the persecution of Anton Sa’ada’s “Syrian National Party” (one of its comrades planted the bomb that killed Bashir Jumayil) in 1949. Israel's involvement, however, lend the massacre of Palestinians by Christians a novel and special significance.

This involvement of Israel with the Phalanges' action demanded clarification. Israelis demanded to know what happened and what the government and the army’s roles in the outrages were. The scenario was confused. Initially, the government avoided explanations or gave unconvincing ones that only increased the confusion and further reduced the government’s credibility, already shaken since the cease-fire that did not end the fighting. Rumors spread about dissents within the army ranks and some of them proved true. The opposition to the war, led by Peace Now movement, gained immense popularity and a wave of protests and demonstrations burst out, culminating in a mass protest assembly — probably one of the biggest Israel ever had — in Tel Aviv on Saturday, 25 September 1982. Losing confidence in its government’s integrity in this and other matters pertaining to the war, the public insisted on the appointment of a State Commission of Inquiry chaired by a supreme court judge to investigate what really had taken place in Sabra and Shatila.

At this point, I would like to introduce a personal vantage point on the events of September 1982. In the wake of the war in 1973, I served as a scientific assistant to the Agranat Commission that investigated the war. A few months before the Lebanon war, Justice Moshe Landau, a member of the Agranat Commission and later the President of the Supreme Court, appointed me member of a state commission of inquiry that should have investigated the assassination in 1933 of Chayim Arlosoroff, head of the Jewish Agency’s political department. PM Menachem Begin wished to acquit retroactively the Zionist-Revisionist movement from allegations about their involvement in the murder. I was the historian on that commission that was supposed to examine a historical case that interested only few Israelis.

I had no political affiliation at that time, but the government’s initial refusal to investigate the massacre at Sabra and Shatila exasperated me. The slippery answers given by Begin and some of his ministers to the media and the public made me feel cheated. In my eyes, it was inconceivable that the same government that initiated an investigation of a 50 year old murder did not grasp its moral obligation to conduct a proper inquiry into acts to which it was a party, even if indirectly. I submitted my resignation from the Arlosoroff commission to the new President of the Supreme Court, Justice Itzhak Cahan, and from his office went straight to the hill opposite Begin’s bureau to start a sit-in strike in protest. I sat there several days and nights, surrounded by many supporters that came to identify with my act, until the government changed its position.

Let’s go back to the main story. Within a week, the government succumbed to the public pressure and appointed a commission, chaired by Justice Cahan himself, to investigate the events in Sabra and Shatila and Israel’s role in them if there was any. After a few months of thorough investigation, the commission did not find any of the office holders whose conduct had been questioned after the massacre directly responsible. Nonetheless, the commissioners criticized several of them, beginning with Begin and ending with Amos Yaron, for not being sufficiently aware of the implications of the Phalanges’ advance into Sabra and Shatila. Beyond verbal criticism, Minister of Defence Ariel Sharon was required to resign from his post.

The massacre in Sabra and Shatila was the turning point of the Lebanon war. Under increasing international pressure, the IDF withdrew from West Beirut by the end of September 1982. A year later, the IDF withdrew to the Awali river's line south of the Shuf Mountains and early in 1985 it withdrew to a narrow security zone north of the Israeli-Lebanon border where it stayed until May 2000. The source of resistance to Israel’s occupation of Lebanese territory changed and the Shi’ite Hizbullah replaced the Palestinians in carrying the main burden of fighting against the IDF.

For all practical purposes, the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon receded from the picture. Arafat abandoned them when he made the Oslo agreement with Israel. Lebanon still refuses to absorb them. Their conditions have not changed, though the Israelis have long disappeared from their camps. The Phalanges came to terms with the Syrians and Elie Hubeika — the arch-murderer of Sabra and Shatila — received immunity and served them loyally to his last day. Beyond all — Hizbullah, backed by Syria and Iran, emerged as the central force in Lebanon and as a symbol of successful resistance to Israel for the entire Arab world.

To Israel, Lebanon and Hizbullah have become a trauma. Determined to extricate Israel from the Lebanese marsh, Ehud Barak insisted on a full withdrawal to the international border and betrayed the South Lebanese militia. Soon, the Hizbullah deployed in the gates of several Israeli settlements along the border, and for six years built its infrastructure in South Lebanon and prepared for the present campaign. Ariel Sharon, Barak's successor, remembered the personal price he had to pay for his adventure in Lebanon as well as the heavy price paid by the entire Israeli society. During his almost five years of premiership he refrained consistently from any major action against Hizbullah and ignored the accumulation of arms, the intensive training and the building of fortifications, and other preparations beyond the border — very similar to those for which he invaded Lebanon in 1982. The outcome is the present campaign with the hardships of both IDF soldiers in the front and Israeli civilians in the rear.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Patrick, Thanks for your insightful comment, as usual.

1. I think the answer to your basic query is partly contained within your remarks themselves: e.g. "flavor of the month, puppet Maliki". How long would this supposedly "sovereign" Iraqi state last if the American troops were to pull out? In other words, the Lebanon-Iraq analogy breaks down because the U.S. is one of the key players that would have to be "mediated" between. You can't "mediate" (interpose, as an intermediary, between opposing parties) if you are one of the main parties.

2. The LBJ analogy is slightly better, but still fails ultimately. After Dien Bien Phu and the partition of Vietnam into North and South in 1954, an ongoing conflict between these two halves of the country (a "Civil War" as of 1957 according to Monica Toff in your source) raged for nearly a decade before the U.S. presence became decisive after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The USA, in essence, intervened in an existing civil war, it did not precipitate the hostilities through an overtly aggressive (and massively bungled) invasion and occupation of an entire country. LBJ had, in effect, taken over one half of Vietnam and attempted (not very seriously I don't think) to extend an olive branch to the other half. What or who is the "other half" in Iraq? There seems to be a flavor of the month situation on the "insurgency" side as well.

3. The main reason why there is no "diplomatic response/solution" in Iraq is revealed by continuing further with a sober assessment of how the current mess in Mesopotamia began. Remember Rice's imminent "mushroom cloud." Remember the "cakewalk to Baghdad"? Remember the "new marketing initiative" launched after Labor Day (2002)? Remember the "cakewalk" to Baghdad ? (As if the fall of Kabul was merely a Rovian script which could be recycled in a completely different and much bigger hornets nest elsewhere). Remember Senate cowards and BS artists Kerry, Hillary, Lieberman, Daschle etc. ignoring warnings about "sleepwalking" and signing Rove's blank check? Remember the strut of the chickenhawk across the almost beached aircraft carrier with the "Mission Accomplished"? Such memories will suffice without even getting into the long sorry list of serial American Chickenhawk blunders of the month which followed in Iraq itself.

Look at who is involved here. Fratboy Bush is not LBJ, Nixon, or even Reagan. America is being run by fourth raters. W was a dry drunk governor Texas with zero national or international experience. Powell was a competent soldier and an amiable and intelligent character but had no real diplomatic experience. Ditto Rice, a reasonably good poli sci prof, and energetic handshaker whose only demonstrated international expertise lay in "Kremlinology" (e.g. understanding the now long gone and unlamented USSR). Rummy and Cheney were fossilized retreads (pardon the mixed metaphor) from day 1 in this administration. The incompetents who got us into the Iraq debacle (with the help of spineless hypocrites such as Hillary and most of other leading Democrats) can hardly be expected to proceed with the far more difficult task of extrication. They broke the pottery (to revise the statement attributed to Powell slightly) and our grandchildren own the lasting disaster.

It looks like it will be up to historians to help lead the way eventually, because neither impeachment (to remove the crooked perpetrators) nor a revolution in the Democratic Party (to remove the spineless rubberstampers) seems to be in the offing. And those historians are not in much evidence on this website (present page, apparently excepted) which tends to be mainly dominated by journalists, propagandists, and those fellow posters (well known to you by now) whose idea of politics is that it is a sports match. Root root root for the home team and leave your brain at home.

P.S. I think Toft's "Civil War" criteria are necessary but not sufficient. The resulting historical list is far too long. Every little skirmish or rebellion in China, Kashmir, or Indonesia hardly qualifies as a "Civil War" in my view. By these criteria, Tippecanoe and Little Big Horn were "civil wars" with even the Waco, Texas shootout rating as a close contender. It MAY come to a Shia-Sunni Civil War in Iraq (with the Kurds, Iranians, and Al Qaedaists on the sidelines as keenly interested observers) but we are not there yet, I don't think. Not as long as the main action consists unidentified car bombers and bobby trappers blowing up foreign sitting ducks in an environment of chaotic and violent anarchy. The "civil war" talk strikes me mainly as a cop-out to avoid facing the reality that, in this disastrous case, prefab political science classifications are trumped by colossal incompetence, apathy, hypocrisy, and cowardice, Pogo.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I quite agree re the deficiences of
"edwardsaidism." I also find Mr. Shcherban difficult to follow (let alone agree with) at times. But, I don't think he meant to say that Syria was a "peacemaker," only that when two conventional armies of at least semi-conventional nation-states were facing each other across the Lebanese border, things were more stable, and that the current horrific mess -Hezbollah blasting Israeli civilians and Israel blowing up Lebanese civilians- would have been much less likely.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


The style requirements for comments on this website are not high (e.g. they are practically non-existent). The same goes for rules against excessive assertiveness. The main thing is to try to make clear what you mean. Most of the time you do manage to do this.

I have appreciated your openmindedness, and hope that you also appreciate that not all Americans are as pigheaded and stupidly nationalist as too many other regular posters here are.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You make a good point about the massive killing of Iraqis, although I'm not sure you have the figures quite correct. Quite a few died under the oil-for-food program which Saddam perverted in order to starve his own people.

In any case you throw away your valid observation by endorsing what must still be a sick joke. Consider: much of the most horrific killing since the U.S. invasion -blowing up the UN, blowing up the Red Cross- etc.- was apparently done by Saddamists.

At any rate there is no putting Humpty Dumpty together again by some kind of Saddam restoration. Indeed there is NO simple solution of any kind to the mess which Cheney, Bush et. al, have made, with support from spineless Democrats. That is why, ultimately, there can be no progress without ceasing to deny that reality and ceasing to to bring those responsible to account.

It is, for instance, a lasting disgrace to America that these traitors are not in prison:


and that these titanic cowards are still in office in the Senate:

Hillary Clinton
John Kerry
Joe Lieberman

The list of the responsible is much longer than these few names, but bringing these smug arrogant fools to justice would at least be a start. THEN, once it is made abundantly clear that their blunders and treason were responsible for America's mess in Iraq, we can begin to talk about how things might have been done differently and how we can go forward to improve matters. One cannot find to a solution to a problem that is deliberately being misunderstood.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Arnold, I wish you were wrong about the corporate interests, but I am afraid you are not wrong. Although I would suggest "plundered and raped by" rather than "sold to", and with the willingly apathetic assent of the masses who are those corporation's customers.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Two problems:

1) beware of basing conclusions on unrepresentative personal sampling. I think the opinions re Yugoslavia before vs after vary considerably between Croats and Serbs, for example.

2) beware of shallow and shoddy historical parallels (unfortunately a key product offering of HNN). You might usefully compare Saddam with Tito, for instance, if the latter had done anything like

a) fight a pointless eight year war with Italy killing millions and ruining his country's economy

b) test out poison gas on the Kosovars

c) conquer Albania in order to plunder it, provoking nearly all of Europe and Arabia into war against him, and then flooding the Mediterranean with oil, thus committing ecocide, in a futile attempt to pollute desalinization plants in Greece

d) squander the country's export earnings on palaces and military toys while the populace starved

There is a big point here, Arnold, which I am afraid you and many others have missed. Sometimes WHETHER to do something (like topple a foreign despot) is less important than HOW to do it. If there is not good way HOW, as Papa Bush thought in 1991, then better not to do it REGARDLESS of whether or not it might be deemded otherwise desirable. On that we can probably agree, as I think we also agree that if you want a fried egg for breakfast, and the idiot cook cracks it in your face instead of the fry pan, the solution to your problem is not try to reassemble the egg.

I guess the lesson on sanctions should be: unless the target cares about his own people, or is somehow answerable to them, don't bother.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The article is informative but incomplete. Three key Israeli policy failures behind the current crisis are not mentioned:

1) Not anticipating the kidnapping raid and failing to take adequate precautions to protect border guards.

2. The amoral lopsided valuation which holds one Israeli life to be equal to hundreds of Arba lives. This ratio and thinking gives strong incentives to kidnappers of Israelis, rationalizes or even mandates massively disproportionate responses to such kidnappings, and leads to a blind eye being turned towards the slaughtering of hundreds of Lebanese civilians (which of course is doing nothing to help Israel's security).

3. The failure to take action or persuade others to undertake international efforts to stop the flow of arms into Lebanon from Iran and Syria.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I think you are right, Patrick. But, there were plenty of other "matches" around if that one (the Gaza beach slayings) handn't ignited things. So Arnold's "powder keg" is indeed a major factor. And once the Lebanon ceasefire is achieved (not inevitable but the requisite Israeli backpeddaling is now well underway) the blunderous mess in Gaza and with Hamas will probalby be front and center again.

Historians are not likely to overlook the lost opportunity following the demise of both Arafat and Sharon, nor to avoid noting the massively inept and unprecedented failure of the U.S. government under our pitiful disaster of a juvenile deliquent president to achieve anything in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other than to be a rubber stamp for one Israeli blunder after the next. A Nixon, Clinton, Kissinger, Vance, Habib, or even a James Baker would have been in there pronto with carrots and sticks, and a blaze of diplomatic skill and energy to get Hamas, Abbas and Olmert into some kind of intense negotiating nexus instead of letting the fanatics, extremists, and blunderers in the Mideast call the shots and determine the course of history there. It is entirely possible that the stubborn intransigence of Hamas would have prevented any new "peace process" from developing. But now we'll never know. Instead America is becoming Mr. Bad Guy to the Arab world again, not only because of W's bumbling and fake cowboy antics in Iraq, but also because of his playing water boy for a newly incompetent Israeli machismo.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006


You make many excellent points that generate one major question from this end. Although, the US (Bush/Rice) dilly-dallied on the diplomacy/cease fire efforts/front to allow Israel time to pound Hizbollah yet, are now on the spot within weeks of the flare-up to push a cease fire plan the question begs;

Why hasn't the US sought a cease fire, or any type of diplomatic response/solution for that matter, to the far greater violent war in Iraq?

Conversely, LBJ offered Ho Chi MInh full participation in the Southeast Asian Development Plan in exchange for peace on April 7, 1965. The first diplomacy/olive branch fairly early into the war if, 1964 is the benchmark start for serious/escalated US involvement. This good will gesture was denounced by NV PM Pham Van Dong the next day but, it was a beginning of series of diplomatic moves to end the carnage. Bush/Powell, Bush/Rice have done absolutely nothing similar to begin a reconciliation dialogue three years in to what appears to be a failed war.

The Iraqi puppet Maliki spoke to Congress this past week in a speech that had all the markings of a Bush/Rove written stump. In fact, if Code Pink hadn't showed up it was well on it's way to being a snoozer... Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... on par with 'W's NAACP monologue. But, no effort has been made to speak to warring parties fighting against this flavor of the month (Maliki) government and the US occupation.

Maybe now that the war has devolved/spun into a civil contest we may some diplomatic movement although, I doubt it.

As a sidebar/point of fact, a two year civil war.


It is troubling that we make extensive diplomatic efforts a priority in other nations wars, in particular 'all-things-Israel' yet, conveniently forget our own overgrown/fed under the closet door monster.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Broken link out of Havard University too important to miss...

Is it a civil war, or isn’t it?

ASK THIS | July 28, 2006

There are objective characteristics that all modern civil wars share. Harvard public policy professor Monica Toft lists six criteria. Hint: Iraq meets all of them.

By Monica Duffy Toft

There are six criteria for considering a conflict a civil war.

Q. Is the focus of the war control over which group governs the political unit?

Q. Are there at least two groups of organized combatants?

Q. Is the state one of the combatants?

Q. Are there at least 1,000 battle deaths per year on average?

Q. Is the ratio of total deaths at least 95 percent to 5 percent? In other words, has the stronger side suffered at least 5 percent of the casualties?

Q. Is the war occurring within the boundaries of an internationally recognized state or entity?

The first criterion centers on the notion of sovereignty and governance. In a civil war, the main struggle is over who will govern, with each side rejecting the legitimacy of the other to take control of the government.

The second indicates that each side has to be organized and armed for the war. This criterion therefore excludes spontaneous mob actions or riots, as, for example, in the Albanian pyramid scheme crisis in 1997.

The third criterion holds that the state must be formally involved in the war, which allows for the exclusion of communal conflicts where there are two warring identity groups.

The fourth tries to capture the intensity of civil war as opposed to other types of violence such as crime, riots, and smaller-scale insurgencies. This excludes such cases as the fight for Northern Ireland (although the costs of that long conflict have been tragic).

The fifth captures the idea of a minimal capability of each side to conduct its military operations by inflicting casualties on the other side. This ratio criterion excludes massacres and genocides.

The sixth excludes wars between two sovereign states.

Iraq has met all of the criteria. The main one that has been contested is "the state is one of the combatants." Until recently, the argument put forward was that most of the violence was fomented by foreign insurgents. Although there is no denying that the foreign insurgents were involved in quite a bit of the violence, they were and are not alone. Organized groups of Sunnis (former Baathists in particular) have been waging violence as have Shiites (e.g., the Badr brigade/Mahdi Army) since at least Spring 2004.

The conflict in Iraq formally became a “civil war” once a sovereign Iraq government took control in June 2004. Although precise figures are hard to come by, I don’t think anyone would doubt that the death count has exceeded 1,000 per ear on average since. Furthermore, since the spring of 2006 at least, the number of deaths by sectarian groups (commonly referred to as death squads) has far outpaced that of suicide bombers (presumed to be foreign insurgents).

Previous Civil Wars

The following is a list of all civil wars from 1940 to 2005, all of which meet the criteria above:

State, name of war/combatants, start year, end year

Afghanistan I Civil War: Mujahideen, Taliban 1978 2001
Algeria I War of Independence 1954 1962
Algeria II Opposition to Bella 1963 1963
Algeria III Fundamentalists 1992 .
Angola I War of Independence 1961 1974
Angola IIa Angolan Civil War 1975 1994
Angola IIb UNITA Warfare 1998 2002
Argentina Coup 1955 1955
Azerbaijan/USSR Nagorno-Karabakh 1988 1994
Bangladesh Chittagong Hill 1972 1997
Bolivia I Popular Revolt 1946 1946
Bolivia II Bolivian Revolution 1952 1952
Brazzaville Ia Elections 1993 1993
Brazzaville Ib Factional Warfare 1997 1997
Burma I Communist Revolt 1948 1989
Burma II Karens 1948 .
Burma III Shan 1959 .
Burma IV Kachins 1960 1994
Burundi Ia Hutu Coup Attempt 1965 1965
Burundi Ib Hutu Rebellion 1972 1972
Burundi Ic Hutu/Tutsi 1988 1988
Burundi Id Hutu/Tutsi 1991 1991
Burundi Ie Hutu/Tutsi 1993 2003
Cambodia Ia Khmer Rouge 1970 1975
Cambodia Ib Viet Intervention 1978 1991
Cameroon War of Independence 1955 1960
Chad FROLINAT 1965 1997
Chile Army Revolt 1973 1973
China I Com Rev: Final Phase 1945 1949
China III Cultural Revolution 1966 1969
China IIa Tibet 1950 1951
China IIb Tibet 1954 1959
Colombia I La Violencia 1948 1958
Colombia II FARC 1964 .
Costa Rica Civil War 1948 1948
Cuba Cuban Revolution 1956 1959
Cyprus Ia Greek/Turk Clashes 1963 1964
Cyprus Ib Coup/Turk Invasion 1974 1974
Dominica Republic Dominican Civil War 1965 1966
Egypt Free Officers' Coup 1952 1952
El Salvador FMLN/FDR 1979 1992
Ethiopia I Eritrea 1961 1993
Ethiopia II Tigray 1975 1991
Ethiopia III Ogaden 1977 1978
Georgia I South Ossetia 1990 1992
Georgia II Abkhazia 1992 1993
Greece Greek Civil War 1944 1949
Guatemala I Coup 1954 1954
Guatemala II Guatemalan Civil War 1960 1996
GuineaBissau I War of Independence 1963 1974
GuineaBissau II Coup 1998 1999
India II Hyderabad 1948 1948
India III Naga Revolt 1956 1997
India IV Sikh Insurrection 1982 1993
India Ia Part/Kash/In-Pak War 1946 1949
India Ib Kashmir 1965 1965
India Ic Kashmir 1988 .
Indonesia I War of Independence 1945 1949
Indonesia III Acheh Revolt 1953 1959
Indonesia IV PRRI Revolt 1958 1961
Indonesia V PKI Coup Attempt 1965 1966
Indonesia VI East Timor 1975 1999
Iran I Kurds/Mahabad 1946 1946
Iran IIa Iranian Revolution 1978 1979
Iran IIb NCR/Mojahedin 1981 1982
Iraq I Army Revolt 1958 1958
Iraq II Mosul Revolt 1959 1959
Iraq IIIa Kurds 1961 1970
Iraq IIIb Kurds 1974 1975
Iraq IIIc Kurds 1980 1991
Iraq IV Shi'ite Insurrection 1991 1993
Israel/Palest Unrest/War of Indep 1945 1949
Jordan Palestinians 1970 1971
Kenya I Mau Mau 1952 1956
Korea Korean War 1950 1953
Laos Pathet Lao 1959 1973
Lebanon Ia First Civil War 1958 1958
Lebanon Ib Second Leb Civ War 1975 1990
Liberia NPFL 1989 1997
Madagascar MDRM/Independence 1947 1948
Malaysia Malayan Emergency 1948 1960
Moldova Trans-Dniester Slavs 1991 1997
Morocco I War of Independence 1952 1956
Morocco II Western Sahara 1975 1991
Mozambique I War of Independence 1964 1975
Mozambique II RENAMO 1976 1992
Namibia War of Independence 1966 1990
Nicaragua Rev/Contra Insurgen 1978 1990
Nigeria I Biafra 1967 1970
Nigeria II Maitatsine 1980 1984
Pakistan I Bangladesh 1971 1971
Pakistan II Baluchi Rebellion 1973 1977
Paraguay Coup Attempt 1947 1949
Peru Shining Path 1980 1999
Philippines I Huks 1946 1954
Philippines II NPA Insurgency 1969
Philippines IIIa Moro Rebellion 1972 1996
Philippines IIIb Moro Rebellion 2000 .
Romania Romanian Revolution 1989 1989
Russia Ia First Chechen War 1994 1996
Russia Ib Second Chechen War 1999
Rwanda Ia First Tutsi Invasion 1963 1964
Rwanda Ib Tutsi Invasion/Genoc 1990 1994
Sierra Leone RUF 1991 2002
Somalia Clan Warfare 1988
South Africa Bl/Whit, Bl/Bl 1983 1994
South Korea Yosu Sunch'on Revolt 1948 1948
Sri Lanka II Tamil Insurgency 1983 .
Sri Lanka Ia JVP I 1971 1971
Sri Lanka Ib JVP II 1987 1989
Sudan Ia Anya Nya 1955 1972
Sudan Ib SPLM 1983 2005
Syria Sunni v. Alawites 1979 1982
Tajikistan Tajik Civil War 1992 1997
Tunisia War of Independence 1952 1956
Turkey Kurds 1984 .
USSR I Ukraine 1942 1950
USSR II Lithuania 1944 1952
Uganda I Buganda 1966 1966
Uganda II War in the Bush 1980 1986
Vietnam I French-Indochina War 1946 1954
Vietnam II Vietnam War 1957 1975
Yemen Southern Revolt 1994 1994
Yemen North I Coup 1948 1948
Yemen North II N. Yemeni Civil War 1962 1970
Yemen South S. Yemeni Civil War 1986 1986
Yugoslavia I Croatian Secession 1991 1995
Yugoslavia II Bosnian Civil War 1992 1995
Yugoslavia III Kosovo 1998 1999
Zaire/Congo I Katanga/Stanleyville 1960 1965
Zaire/Congo II Post-Mobutu 1996 .
Zimbabwe Front for Lib of Zim 1972 1977

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006


I think a major point of this unfortunate chapter to this sorry centuries long saga has been overlooked/ignored here and elsewhere. The reason for the recent spate is the underreported June 9, 2006 'Beach Bombing' that was the preverbal straw/camels back incident, Israel first admitted/then denied responsibility, that was the match strike to ignite the powder keg.


The June 25 kidnapping of Gilad Shalit may have been in direct response to the beach bombing events.

Arnold Shcherban - 8/2/2006

Thanks Peter,
I also can assure you that I appreciate much more qualities of
of American nationals than one might realize from my comments, since when
talking about history one commonly concentrate his attention to the
powerful political elite. I also fully aware about many outstanding
and honest personalities on the US
social arena (though I would refrain
of saying the same about the mainstream politicians).
However, I would like to note that
the American democracy has been sold to corporate interests to a great measure for at least 25 years by now.
And this is not just my modest opinion, as I'm sure you're aware of, the opinion confirmed by miriad of facts and comments coming from everywhere.

Arnold Shcherban - 8/1/2006

I have just a couple words to say, the words that the overwhelming
majority of the world reiterates right now: The political elite of the Israel and US are WAR CRIMINALS.
And no words can deny the crimes they
commit directly or by proxy virtually every day.
And I did not type this to continue senseless debate with dishonest types, ideological supporters of those criminals such as E.A.Green.

Arnold Shcherban - 8/1/2006

Thanks Peter for your unbiased comments. I want you to know that I'm not a bit offended by their first part, since I fully recognize my deficiencies in expressing myself on
the level of command of the language
you and some other commentators possess. Plus, my style leaves much to be desired.
However, despite our considerable differences in the interpretation of many historical events and of the major goal of the US foreign policy,
you remain the one who apparently recognizes that I'm not driven by any
ideological or socio-economic affiliations, only by the desire to
understand and interpret history and politics, including those in the making, as objectively as possible.
The reason I continue doing it is that
my personal very successful record of political and social prognostication (versus many acknowledged experts in
history and politics, not mentioning
the good part of the commentators on HNN boards) really supplies confidence and good sense to my analytical constructions.
The negative consequence of that confidence is my excessive assertiveness that some on HNN boards
have justifiably criticized.

Arnold Shcherban - 7/31/2006

Mr Green,

I certainly have never pretended to being an even minor authority on Lebanon's ancient or modern history.
Neither did I specifically designated
Syria as a "peacemaker", in general sense, which you blamed me for.
I just illuminated an interesting, and in my opinion non-coincidental fact, that the perpertual tensions
existed between Hezbollah militants resided in Lebanon and Israel after a pretty long period of low military activity during Syrian stay in Lebanon have sharply escalated leading to the wide-scale war very soon after Syrian leave.
The US politicians and mass media called the last deadly developments
in relations between Lebanon and Israel Syrian and Iranian terrorist plot exacted with the hands of Hezbollah, however, the recent events hardly support such an interpretation.
You may be right about general strategy of Syria (and Iran) of supporting Hezbollah as the counterpoint to Israel (that those countries consider the main agressor
and occupier in the region), but to blame them exclusively for the current
bloodshed and destruction on Lebanese
and Israelian territory, as those I mentioned above are doing, is even more baised and ignorant than you claim I am.
If one takes immediate, not historic causes of current war between Israel and Lebanon, there was one major cause: Palestians democratically electing Hamas to be their leading political force and the US and Israel's immediate and unconditional refusal to deal with the lawful representatives of Palestian people.
(And not just refusal; their openly declared decision to get rid of Hamas political leadership of Palestinians by all means, what was well understood as by illegal means, since legal were non-existent at the time, which they began by sharply cutting off financial aid.)
The choice that had and still has nothing to do with any Syrian or Iranian plot against Israel.
I don't know about your vision of history, but as soon as I learned about the Hamas and described reaction of the main powers in the region, I said: that means WAR.

Arnold Shcherban - 7/31/2006

You're absolutely right (and you know
I'm in solid agreement with you) about
traitors and criminals in the White House and their main collaborators within Democratic Party you mentioned.
What I actually meant about restoring
Saddam to political power (that I suggested with full realization it was
impossible now) that being the Iraqi political leader for many years he despite all his deadly and not so deadly sinsmanaged to accomplish quite
a lot in social sense: Iraq (before the Kuwait adventure) became a country with the biggest middle class
in Midlle East(no pun intended) and without major outbreaks of deadly confrontantions between different nationalities, religious or political groups. I'am aware of the iron hand being used to accomplish the relatively peaceful, though strained
situation in the latter regard, but
wasn't it still better than the civil war, or whatever you call it, with the scale of sectarian violence that we witness every day there now?
Let me give you just one analogy:
former communist Yugoslavia and what happened over its decay. I asked many
former citizens of communist Yugoslavia whether they would rather
have lived under communist regime, as it was there in 70s, if they had forseen the scale of death and destruction that happened there after teh collapse of the communist state.
Pretty much all of them told me that though many of them were not especially enchanted(modestly speaking) with the situation there under the communist rule, they would have never traded the life in the united Yugoslavia for the horrors of the aftermath of its decay under the proclaimed by the West (that as usual
would support any regime, no matter how horrific, including Saddam's one, as long time as the one goes with the Western political and financial flow) "democratic" regimes in separated states of Yugoslavia.

As far as the sanctions are concerned,
I would like to make a couple of comments on that issue: first - the sanctions by themselves was a brutal and unjust measure, even in its most perfect realization targeting not Saddam's regime, but Iraqi populus (as there are sanctions against Cuba), secondly - I'm not sure that Saddam or/and his immediate deputies personally cheated on the food for oil program to the extent that was responsible for the major part of the human suffering and deaths of common Iraqis. This has never been proven. There is no proof that the cheating/corruption in this regard was any greater than it had occured or would occur in any other country thrown into the same situation by the unjust decision of the international community. More of that, such corruption, especially in Muslim Middle Eastern countries where financial corruption is basically a way of life by historic tradition, should have been expected by the countries that initiated demand for the sanctions and served as one of the strong arguments against their application.

Arnold Shcherban - 7/30/2006

When it was first said it sounded as a joke, but it looks like now as the best solution for, at least, Iraqis: return Saddam to political leadership.
No matter how tyranic his regime had been it was not able to kill as many Iraqis in the course of 20 years, as them were killed for the last 3 years (and undoubtedly will be killed many thousands more). What a tragical a-la-democracy farce...

Elliott Aron Green - 7/30/2006

I don't place myself in a class with Walid Phares of Yoav Gelber for knowledge of Lebanon. But Arnold S. displays really gross ignorance of Lebanon. First of all, like Iraq, Lebanon is not a nation. It too is made up of several ethnic-religious groups, most of which are now speaking Arabic, although in the past the Maronites, for example, spoke an Aramaic dialect [still used in their liturgy, as far as I know]. The Christians were once the majority and were pre-eminent in the state. Yet,Western powers, including the USA worked to end the the Christian ascendancy in Lebanon, although this might surprise some of the simplistic/simpleminded believers in "neo-colonial theory" or in E Said's "persecuted Islam" notion [read Cecil Hourani's book on the Lebanese civil war for allusions to this].
Now arnold s. is so ignorant about how the hizbullah attained its ascendancy. Syria, which the USA allowed to establish hegemony in Lebanon in 1976, completed establishment of hegemony in 1990-1991, with US complicity as payment for Syria's help [as meager as it may have been] against Saddam's Iraq in the Gulf War. Syria proceeded to disarm all the Lebanese militias except for the hizbullah, which was its own and Iran's chosen instrument. This meant that hizbullah was Syria and Iran's fifth column within Lebanon to control Lebanese society. Whereas before, the Sunnis, Druze, and Maronites had at least one armed, well-armed, militia per ethno-religious group, starting from 1990-91, all were disarmed but hizbullah. This intimidated all other ethno-religious and political factions in the country. For arnold s to call Syria a peacemaker is like calling Stalin a peacemaker for the Soviet Union. Like Stalin, Assad sr and jr did keep the peace in a way. But with a very heavy hand. Even after the Syrian army left Lebanon in 2005, their hizbullah surrogates, well-armed and fanatical, cast a shadow over Lebanese politics. The official army seems to have been afraid to take them on,probably rightly so. So glamorous downtown Beirut was a facade for the fanatical medieval jihadist rantings of Nasrallah.
To conclude, Lebanon's history and sociology are fascinating and important subjects that cannot be understood by superficial application of currently fashionable "left-right" explanations [nor by edwardsaidism].

Elliott Aron Green - 7/30/2006

I don't place myself in a class with Walid Phares of Yoav Gelber for knowledge of Lebanon. But Arnold S. displays really gross ignorance of Lebanon. First of all, like Iraq, Lebanon is not a nation. It too is made up of several ethnic-religious groups, most of which are now speaking Arabic, although in the past the Maronites, for example, spoke an Aramaic dialect [still used in their liturgy, as far as I know]. The Christians were once the majority and were pre-eminent in the state. Yet,Western powers, including the USA worked to end the the Christian ascendancy in Lebanon, although this might surprise some of the simplistic/simpleminded believers in "neo-colonial theory" or in E Said's "persecuted Islam" notion [read Cecil Hourani's book on the Lebanese civil war for allusions to this].
Now arnold s. is so ignorant about how the hizbullah attained its ascendancy. Syria, which the USA allowed to establish hegemony in Lebanon in 1976, completed establishment of hegemony in 1990-1991, with US complicity as payment for Syria's help [as meager as it may have been] against Saddam's Iraq in the Gulf War. Syria proceeded to disarm all the Lebanese militias except for the hizbullah, which was its own and Iran's chosen instrument. This meant that hizbullah was Syria and Iran's fifth column within Lebanon to control Lebanese society. Whereas before, the Sunnis, Druze, and Maronites had at least one armed, well-armed, militia per ethno-religious group, starting from 1990-91, all were disarmed but hizbullah. This intimidated all other ethno-religious and political factions in the country. For arnold s to call Syria a peacemaker is like calling Stalin a peacemaker for the Soviet Union. Like Stalin, Assad sr and jr did keep the peace in a way. But with a very heavy hand. Even after the Syrian army left Lebanon in 2005, their hizbullah surrogates, well-armed and fanatical, cast a shadow over Lebanese politics. The official army seems to have been afraid to take them on,probably rightly so. So glamorous downtown Beirut was a facade for the fanatical medieval jihadist rantings of Nasrallah.
To conclude, Lebanon's history and sociology are fascinating and important subjects that cannot be understood by superficial application of currently fashionable "left-right" explanations [nor by edwardsaidism].

Arnold Shcherban - 7/29/2006

I have problem with the first of listed by you "failures" of Israelis:
no security/precautions can eliminate all instances of enemy actions against
border guards - the very first line of national defense system. Thus, it was hardly anyone's fault, just the lucky strike by terrorists.
I would like, however, to add one cardinal Israeli fault to the discussion's topic, the fault that to my mind served as the main cause of current conflict and was actually created months before the kidanpping of Israeli soldiers.
Read my lips: democratic election of Hamas government.
If not for UN observers that overwhelmingly concluded that the election was democratic, Israel (with encouraging nod from Washington) would
start its offensive against Palestinians without any military pretext. But the latter conclusion created legitimate international problem (though - in my opinion - greater problem for US with its widely
condemned Iraq debacle and MidEast policies, in general, than for Israel) with such outright agressive
move. From the very beginning the US and Israel announced that they didn't recognize Hamas government as the legitimate representative of Palestinian people, despite that
the large majority of those very people overwhelmingly voted
for Hamas leadership. More of that,
the US and Israeli governments unambigiously declared that they would seek for as fast removal of Hamas from governmental power as possible. Since no democratic way to accomplish that task in the more or less immediate future did not exist, everybody interpreted the removal through clandestine and/or
military, i.e., illegal means.
All arguments in favor to deal with Hamas through diplomatic channels, even by proxy, have been rejected by both US and Israel at the wink of an eye. In fact, desperately needed by Palestinian people financial aid was immediately cut down, simultaneous to the start of the clandestine
The reaction of Hamas militants
was the reaction any national goverment (democratic or not) would display in similar circumstances, i.e.
Hezbollah terrorists that stayed put for a while, so say, resumed its operations against Israelis in retaliation for the described treatment of the political choice made by Palestinians.
And the war has begun.

Arnold Shcherban - 7/27/2006

The US and Israel politicians and mainstream media in unison have yelled
"murder" for years on account of the Syrian troops presence("occupation", as they called it) in Lebanon, arguing that the Syrian occupation
creates explosive situation there, with the real danger of a new war.
Under their tremendous pressure, accompanied by the direct threats of military attacks, Syria withdrew all their troops from Lebanon earlier this year.
So, Lebanese people should be finally breathing much more freely, right?
Wrong! The war is raging on the Lebanese soil again, claiming hundreds and hundreds of just civilian lives as we speak and to a great extent exactly because
Syrians left Lebanon in a hurry, leaving it extremely vulnerable to
Israeli offensive. It looks like
Syrian troops (however "evil" they were) was the last hope to preserving
more or less peaceful coexistence with Israel.
Surely, the fanatic supporters of Israeli fierce offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, will dismiss my argument as a mere coincidence.
But provided neither side of the argument possesses overwhelming evidence to support its conclusion,
unbiased analysts always choose in favor of the much more probable one.
Since the mentioned above coincidence
is clearly highly unprobable, we have to opt for the Syrian withdrawl as,
at the least, sufficient condition for
the Israeli offensive.
Now, it is not unimaginable that Israel would start its current offensive campaign and occupation(these days promised to be temporary) even with the significant Syrian military presence in Lebanon (the possibility that denies the neccesity of Syrian withdrawl for the Israeli attack), but it certainly would incur many highly undesirable political and military consequences for Israel and the USA.
Thus, the recent Syrian withdrawl gave Israel that badly needed cart-blanche for starting the war.
Two captured by the other side soldiers were just a quite awkward
excuse for launching major military
strikes, and bombing of civilian infrastructure in Beirut and elsewhere.
No democratic and civilised country in the world, except Israel and USA, starts a war under so miserable and
internationally unacceptable pretense.

But for US and Israeli propaganda the suspects are usual: Syria and Iran.

The US didn't utter a single word
to even friendly caution (forget - to condemn!) Israel on the issue of strikes against civilan targets and installations, including most recent
killing of the four UN observers that
according to the facts known so far looks quite intentional.
I don't believe the command to strike
the UN post came from the political or military leaders, but even if it was the deliberate action of some rogue lower rank Israeli officer, it
constitutes, along with the bombing
of Beirut's International Airport,
a war crime. But then again: the US itself is quite competent in similar affairs as well as in the remarkable
propagandist ability to decriminalize
American war crimes... for the average US citizen's consumption.